The NHL is moving towards finalizing a plan to resume the 2019-20 season and eventually declare a Stanley Cup champion.
According to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic, the NHL could announce an update on the 2019-20 season sometime this week. LeBrun is reporting that the league will go with a 24-team playoff format and will include a short stint of round-robin games before the playoffs.
“While there remains work to be done, and nobody involved is ready to say 100 percent where this is headed, sources confirm progress was made this weekend on a 24-team format for return to play.”
LeBrun also states that there is still much work to be done on finalizing a plan to restart the season. In addition to the news about the 2019-20 season, LeBrun believes the league might be preparing to announce its plans for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
Scott Burnside of The Athletic detailed the entire 24-team plan plus a few tweaks that could be possible. In the most likely scenario, two area teams will make the tournament.
How will this affect NY/NJ teams?
First off, sorry New Jersey Devils fans, even a 24-team playoff format wouldn’t be enough for the red and black to have a chance at the Stanley Cup. Meanwhile, the expanded format would give the New York Rangers—a surging team at the time of the shutdown—a chance to make some noise.
The Rangers, buoyed by the young goaltender Igor Shesterkin, and led by the offensive brilliance of Artemi Panarin, would be a tough out in the playoffs. The break in the season also gave the Rangers time to rest injured players like Chris Kreider.
The New York Islanders were on the opposite end of the spectrum. The Isles were hurtling out of the playoff picture prior to the league’s hiatus. Stagnation on offense and inconsistent play in their own end was leading to a complete collapse.
However, the current hiatus gave the team some time to catch its breath. The Isles once went on an incredible 16-game stretch where it accumulated 31 out of a possible 32 points. Any team capable of that type of hot streak is going to be dangerous in the playoffs.
Sure, that ridiculous stretch came early in the season and it’s unlikely the Isles can recapture that magic. But with such a long layoff, other teams are going to look rusty early on. If Barry Trotz‘s squad can recommit to its defensive identity, they could start winning ugly. A win is a win. Nothing else matters.
Of course, the NHL’s potential plan is fluid, but if the 24-team playoff format becomes a reality, New York hockey fans will have something to circle on the calendar.